Question: What do you get when you combine Russian agents, a therapy dog and a US$15,000 ostrich-skin jacket? Answer: A criminal investigation that could decide the fate of a US president. Donald Trump’s presidency has produced no shortage of eyebrow-raising moments. And US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has turned up some surreal anecdotes as he examines whether the 2016 Trump election campaign worked with Russia to win the White House. Some of those episodes resemble reality television, fitting as Trump was once star of his own reality show, The Apprentice . Moments of heightened drama appeared to be legitimate, but in fact involved paid actors and off-site directors. On July 9, 2016, a Facebook group called United Muslims of America staged a rally in Washington to support the Republican presidential candidate’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. One of the attendees held a sign with Clinton’s image and a quote: “I think sharia law will be a powerful new direction of freedom.” It appeared to show Clinton expressing support for the Muslim legal code, which some say could be a threat to US law. According to US prosecutors, the event was designed by Russian agents to undermine Clinton. Moscow has denied the claims and those of US intelligence agencies that it tried to meddle in the election. Mueller’s team says Russians set up the Facebook group, organised the event and paid someone to hold the sign. It was one of several events that year orchestrated by the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed group in St Petersburg that spent millions of dollars disrupting the US democratic process, according to court documents filed by Mueller’s office. Using fake personas, employees of the agency held rallies in New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and Florida, recruiting unwitting activists and, at times, Trump campaign officials to help out, prosecutors said. A volunteer for the Trump campaign agreed to provide signs for a Russian-organised “March for Trump” event in New York in June 2016 and sent out a press release for a “Down With Hillary” rally a month later, the indictment said. A Trump campaign official in Florida helped Russian organisers pick sites for rallies in August 2016. One featured a person dressed up as Clinton wearing a prison uniform in a cage on a truck. Russians paid for the actor and the cage, prosecutors claim. After the election, Russian agents staged duelling rallies in New York – one for Trump and one to protest his victory. The Russian government labelled the allegations as absurd and ridiculed the notion that a few Russian nationals could undermine US democracy. Jesse Ferguson, a former Clinton campaign official, said they thought they were legitimate grass roots events. “You can see where voters would have no way to figure out whether this is a rally of sympathisers – or subversives,” he said. Mueller’s team also revealed the lavish lifestyle of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort – and his disregard for lobbying laws and financial regulations. Prosecutors built their successful fraud conviction of Manafort last summer on a mountain of bank records and other financial documents. But one piece of evidence convicted Manafort in the court of public opinion: a US$15,000 ostrich-leather bomber jacket. A Washington Post fashion critic called the garment “an atrocity – both literal and symbolic”. Prosecutors introduced the jacket as evidence of the high-flying lifestyle that they say Manafort funded by lying to banks and hiding more than US$16 million from tax authorities. Prosecutors also cited US$934,000 in purchases from an oriental rug store and US$1.8 million in payments to home-theatre installers. Manafort subsequently agreed to forfeit many of his assets, including five properties and several bank accounts, as part of a plea deal in a separate criminal case. The plea deal does not require him to give up the ostrich skin jacket. Though Mueller has cultivated a reputation as a no-nonsense prosecutor, he has at times accommodated the quirks of his witnesses. On September 7, 2018, radio host Randy Credico showed up at court with a miniature emotional-support dog named Bianca. For self-described “dirty trickster” Roger Stone, this was an ominous sign. According to Mueller’s team, Stone had spent much of the past year pressuring Credico to lie about their efforts to communicate with WikiLeaks, the website that released stolen Democratic emails during the election campaign. Stone and Credico were an odd pair. Stone was a long-time Republican operative with a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back who had advised Trump on and off for decades. Credico was a former comedian and activist who had served as an intermediary between Stone and WikiLeaks in the final months of the campaign. Mueller’s evidence showed Stone urged Credico to keep their stories straight when investigators came calling. Credico invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he was called before Congress in December 2017. But Credico began to have second thoughts, incurring Stone’s wrath. In an April 2018 email released by prosecutors, Stone said he would “take that dog away from you” – an apparent reference to Bianca. Five months later, Credico arrived at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington to testify before Mueller’s grand jury, with Bianca. pic.twitter.com/BpGnDzEGry — Randy Credico (@Credico2016) March 1, 2019 <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!--\n\n\n//--><!]]> Stone was charged in January with lying to Congress and witness tampering in an indictment that quotes extensively from his communications with Credico. He has pleaded not guilty. Bianca has been spending time recently lolling on a Southwestern-patterned rug, according to Credico’s social-media posts.